Life — One Year Ago (450)

When a lot of people look back one year, they don’t see a lot of changes. For the most part, life rumbles on slowly. Usually only one or two big things will have happened throughout the year to make it memorable, and often one can’t say how a year really went without first coming up with a general emotion to describe it. In my experience, a lot of people will say they had “a bad 201X”. It could, of course, be boiled down to universal culprits, such as the bad economy, or a number of other issues many of us have to deal with.

But when I look back at my year, I try to look specifically at where I used to be and who I am now. Especially with my blog, I can now precisely track where I was in life at specific dates.

365 days ago, the blog was sort of a mess. It was organized, but it was mostly compiled into a lot of information that nobody cared about, not even me. Two reviews, two ‘Me’ posts, and two ‘Life’ posts every single week, wrapped up by a segment of Dreamscape, my second serious attempt at long form fiction. I remember back then I would occasionally write useless blurbs just to get my five hundred words in, and while I tried to avoid it, this ended up happening a lot. (You can only talk about yourself so much before you can’t even think about what to talk about anymore.) A lot of those older posts are thinly veiled vats of useless information, and while that is infinitely better than my zero writing output the year prior, I’ve grown a lot since.

Now, my blog is more refined. I’m down from four Me & Life posts a week to one, giving me much more breathing room to talk about life events that are more substantial. I introduced the Improv 101 and Learning! posts to add more variety. I also added a second fiction day, which is always great.

I think it’s important to look back constantly to make sure you’re going in the right direction. A year ago, I was super proud of the writer I had become. I was finally somebody that wasn’t afraid of putting the ideas on the page, and even when I inevitably got bored of them (as seems to be my curse with longer works,) I still stuck with it for months. A year before that I couldn’t even rely on myself to write five hundred words a week, let alone per day.

So while that jump was about changing the person I was to better fit the writer I wanted to be, the jump from this past year is more about sacrificing quantity for quality. I still have quite a long way to go before I hit that million word wall, but these days I’m not worrying about that as much as I am enjoying the words that I’m putting on the page. I was afraid to give up on Dreamscape because I wanted to at least finish the first draft, but if I’m going to be honest with myself, there were road bumps from the beginning. Problems I ignored because I couldn’t find solutions. I ended up spending the next few weeks being uncomfortable with what I was writing because I knew there were issues with the piece. I told myself it was just to get my “trunk novels” done before I work on real pieces of art.

But really, the art comes first. The very first step on the writer’s journey is to enjoy what you write, and while I’ve known this for several years, it’s a lesson that must be learned and relearned, at least for me.

I’m not the best writer in the world. The stuff I’m working on now probably doesn’t have the most interesting characters, or the most cohesive plot. But you know what?

It’s fun to write. And that’s all that really matters.

Me — One Year Anniversary

The blog is a year old today! What began as five hundred words (almost) every day has ended up being 342 posts of an average length of about 644 words (excluding the fiction which is typically over a thousand words each). Before I started, I had a total of about ninety thousand words written, most of which were spent on different drafts of my first book. It would have taken you half an hour at most to read through all of the short stories I had written, and my biggest accomplishment was The Archive, my personal wiki for all the nations, events, and denizens of Nacre Then.

I’ve written three times more words in this past year alone than my combined writing history prior, all because of this blog. I’ve grown immensely as a writer and have learned a lot about myself and the craft.

Before I started the Daily Dose, I hated writing. I called myself a writer, but really I just had this universe in my head that wanted to get out. Writing has never come easy to me, and truth by told it still isn’t. But I’ve since found stories and characters that I want to write about. I’ve finally found a broad story in Nacre Then that I want to tell (the anthology that doesn’t focus on one character), I’ve discovered Lisa Stenton, and my brothers and I are starting to explore Naya, a new world we’re building a game out of. The Daily Dose was the inspiration I was looking for to become more than I was, and I know that the future will only bring more growth.

I’m coming to realize how far I have yet to go, too. I’m still not a great editor, and for some reason I get bored with stories that go on for too long. This means that if I want to finish something, ten thousand words is the limit, and once I get there I move on to something else without making the edits I know need to happen.

Still, I think I’m ready to start looking to publicize myself. I want to start publishing my standalone short stories like “The Amazing Sightseer” and “Fortune’s Fool” to name a few. I don’t know if I’ll finish Rise of the Riftguard by the end of the year, but if I do I want to start presenting myself to publishers with it.

All that said, I’m pondering some (more) possible blog changes in the future. I don’t have anything solid yet, or even a plan for when I’m going to be giving this more thought, but I think I’m going to combine “Me” and “Life” posts into one, since they’ve always tended to bleed together. In it’s place, I want to add a second “Weekly Short” post to up my fiction output. The problem is, I don’t know what day this should be. The middle of the week works best,but it would require shifting everything around and I’m not quite sure I want to do that just yet.

So, here’s to another year of growth and learning. Let’s see what the future holds.

Life — Patience

I’ve noticed that as far as life changing situations and circumstances go, most of the good ones take time. Everything that we want to be different takes time to enact, whether its a gradual change, or one big change that takes preparation. There aren’t a whole lot of times you wake up and a neighbor wins the lottery and is kind enough to help you solve your financial problems.

Looking over the things that I typically post about (and the things I used to post about), there really isn’t a whole lot of change. Sure, my blog is less than a year old, but nothing big in my life has occurred. As I said yesterday, I suspect a change like this is forthcoming, even if I have to force it to happen. I could very well make my position worse, who knows. All I know is that while I do consider myself ‘happy’ right now, I’m not content. I’ve felt this way for a while, and that may or my not be apparent.

This is further proof that everything takes time. The best advice I can give on that front is simply: Patience. I would say my blog has accomplished virtually nothing. The only real results I’ve seen from it is the fact that I can now reliably write a short story every week, and I know I couldn’t do that even a year ago. I would say I’ve learned a little more discipline because now I write every day, but since it hasn’t influenced my life in any other way (that I could tell), I would be hesitant to even say that.

Again I’m reminded of that million word barrier to entry in the professional writing world. Currently, my writing tallies up to about two hundred thousand words worth of fiction (two hundred thirty if you go by publishing standards), and about one hundred twenty-five (or one hundred fifty) thousand words from the blog alone. It’s easily twice as long as any stand-alone piece of fiction I’ve written, yet I don’t feel comfortable adding the two numbers together and saying I’ma  third of the way to that goal of one million.

But you know what? It doesn’t matter. If I see my becoming a professional writer as an inevitability, (which the optimistic part of me constantly whispers,) it doesn’t even matter how many words I’ve written. I’ll get there one day, and all I have to do is wait. It’s either a gradual change, or one that requires preparation. Obviously this one is gradual, but for a lot of things, as is my case, it can be so gradual that it appears not to be moving at all.

I don’t feel as though I’ve grown as a writer since I started in February, but I’ve written over sixty thousand words of fiction between now and then. I’ve increased my entire total output by around thirty percent in the span of a few months! I can’t pretend that I haven’t grown as a writer.

So, as slow as stagnant as things may seem to be, we’re always changing. The best part about all this, is that we can’t not change. Time doesn’t allow for stagnation, so regardless of any choices we make, we’re constantly learning and growing. You’ll find yourself where you want to be, in time. Just be patient.

Life — Personal Growth

I think one of the hardest parts about growing up and learning is that you have to learn things on your own, sometimes the hard way. So much of life relies on our personal wisdom in decision making, but in my experience, wisdom cannot be given. It is simply a phenomenon that happens naturally as we get older. Reading advice online or talking to a friend about how they should handle a certain situation, in the end, is not wisdom. It is simply knowledge. I can impart my experience in a similar situation, but the decisions I had made were based on ultimately different circumstances and past experiences at the time. The wisdom I gained from such a situation can’t really be transmitted to somebody to prevent a situation from happening, or if it can, that person is utilizing knowledge without understanding.

It’s a tricky bridge to cross to be sure. I don’t mean to say that advice and general information is useless and that you should run off to make mistakes because they’re unavoidable. Instead, my point is merely to say that advice can only go so far.

Early on in my high school career, I would describe past me as fully narcissistic. I knew that I thought highly of myself, but it was a personal revelation of mine to find out that not everybody felt that way about themselves, and that I came across as conceited a lot of the time (not a good quality in a young teenager). It would have done nothing for somebody to come up to me and say “You’re such a stuck up know-it-all” (and I’m sure that happened more than once). The way I would have perceived it as an empty insult to put me down, not the factual statement it really was.

When I had fallen for a girl that would never share feelings for me (also during high school), it didn’t matter how many people told me to forget about her and worry about my own happiness first. To me, I took that advice as ignorance to how much I truly cared about her. How could they tell me to stop worrying about this person I’m in love with? It wasn’t until somebody told me that I’ll never be happy if I lose myself over her that I realized I needed to make some changes. But even then, it wasn’t the information that friend had given me that had provoked me to change. I already had that information. It was the way she had given it me that had presented my situation in a different light, and allowing me to look at it a different way gave me new insight.

So, advice can be helpful. But it depends on the person that is seeking it. I can provide information as to how I live my life and my personal philosophies all day (and I’d be happy to, if somebody asked for it), but in the end it won’t mean anything if that person isn’t willing to use that information to learn more about themselves. So if you’re having difficulty in your own life, maybe it’s time to look not at your situation, but at yourself. Shed some new light on your problem. Find new points of view. There’s always an answer, you just have to be willing to ask the question.

Me — Personal Challenges

Ever since I realized how narcissistic I was in high school, I’ve realized that I’ve unconsciously put myself on top in many facets of life. I’m very competitive because I want to prove to myself that I am capable of being the best. I want to get the best grade on the exam, I want to run the fastest mile, I want to score the most points in the video game. I honestly don’t think it’s because I want the recognition. Depending on what it is, I actually think it can be embarrassing because I don’t like having the attention unless I’m in a leadership position. I still haven’t figured out why there’s a distinction there.

In any case, yesterday was the Relay for Life where I live, and my improv troupe always goes and participates. It’s a personal goal for the team to have somebody on the track the entire twenty four hours, and while most people don’t like walking all that much, I see the event as an opportunity to push myself.

Over the course of those twenty four miles, I walk a lot. It helps that I’m very introverted and am not a big fan of social interaction (especially when it involves the same group of people for several hours on end). Last year, I walked twenty miles during the event. This year, my goal was twenty-two, and while during the middle I didn’t think I would reach it, I actually managed twenty-three.

I’m not boasting. I don’t walk that much because I want to flaunt how fit I am (because, first off, I’m not in that great shape). I do it for myself. My feet start to hurt after ten miles. I’m not immune to pain. The pain is actually a big reason why I do it so much. The event, in my eyes, is the best time to show myself that I can do so much more than what is required. I could easily stop after ten miles because I’m too tired to go on, but where would we be in life if we gave up every time we reached an obstacle? This is the time I use to say “Things can get hard, but if you push yourself, you’ll be able to look back and remember that it couldn’t stop you. That challenge wasn’t enough to bring you down.”

Mark my words, I’m in a lot of pain. I don’t feel it sitting down at the computer, but when I get up to go to the kitchen, my back and legs stage a mutiny and try to bring me down. I use this pain for when I face future challenges. When I get there, I can gauge how much (perhaps theoretical) pain this new obstacle will inflict. If it will bring less pain than I’ve already endured, it is no challenge it all. If I expect it to bring more, then that’s all the more reason not to let that stop me. When I overcome that new obstacle, I’ll be stronger still.

Me — Happy Birthday (220)

I know what you’re thinking. “Kollin, it’s incredibly weird that your birthday post happened to land on a ‘Me’ post and a special tenth post.” Okay, maybe you weren’t thinking that, but I was. And upon consideration, it’s not as statistically improbable as it may sound. It’s actually just two-in-seven divided by ten, which equates to just under a three percent chance. So while it is spooky that the coincidence lined up, it’s not too spooky.

In any case, I’ve never considered my birthday to be a huge event. I actually don’t consider much to be big events. (Like, high school graduation? Why is that a big deal? It’s not really going to be an accomplishment for most people.) So, I don’t plan or expect anything. I wouldn’t be upset if nothing happened. I think it’s sort of silly for people to feel obligated to buy things for people they aren’t necessarily close to just because they’ve completed another year around the sun.

I don’t buy presents for all of my siblings. One, because I’ve never had money I can openly just ‘spend’. (I do, but not much.) Two, because I have a lot of siblings. They don’t need me to buy something every year to know I care about them. I’d say it takes a pretty superficial person to be offended that somebody doesn’t go out and spend money for them on their birthday. The people I buy things for are in circumstances in which I want to go and get something for that person, or give that thing to somebody. You can take that as selfishness on my part, but I think it’s the way we should handle things. If you don’t like an aunt or stepparent or whatever family member that might fight the situation, you should be under no obligations to pretend otherwise.

Tangents aside, I actually got a lot done this year. One year ago, I was in my first semester of classes in college, meeting new people and, surprisingly, reminiscing with people I hadn’t seen in years that also go to the same college now. I wouldn’t really say I’ve made college ‘friends’ since then, but I’m not surprised. About eleven months ago I also got my first taxable job, which was a pretty neat learning experience. As in, I learned how much retail sucks. Do not put yourself through that unless you have to, friend.

In fact, I’ve actually lost friends over the past year. All of them were personal decisions on my part, and I won’t pretend the decision was easy, but I think I’m the stronger for it. After that I started this blog, quit my job, got my license (a bit late, I know), began teaching improv in earnest, and joined a writer’s group! Overwatch launched. World of Warcraft: Legion just came out, and I’ve read some pretty awesome books this year.

So overall I’d say my adulthood had a great start. So here’s to an even better year with less stress (I can dream) and more success. By this time next year I hope to have gotten my AA-T degree, be taking classes at SCUCI, and maybe working a job I don’t hate. Heck, if I’m going to be overly optimistic lets ask to be living on my own (or maybe sharing a condo with people) and completing the first draft of the Nacre Then anthology. I mean, good luck with that, but if I’m as productive next year as I was this year, it’s only very unreasonable, not ludicrously so.

And hey, if you’re reading this and it’s somebody’s birthday (even if this is in the archives) wish them a happy birthday for me. If it’s your birthday, what are you doing wasting time reading this when you could be skydiving? I mean, I’d rather be reading this than skydiving, but that’s just me. You do you.

Me — Gaming Experience Pt. 2

Last time I talked about my childhood and the games I’m most nostalgic about. We left off circa 2005 when the XBox 360 and Wii were announced.

Never had I been more excited for a game than Super Smash Bros: Brawl and Halo 3. Unlike a lot of the current games that are being thrown into circulation, they really held up to the hype. Halo 3 to this day definitely still has my favorite campaign in any first-person shooter. And as far as Brawl goes, we somehow managed to melt the original disc we had. I still have no idea how that even happened, but man, we played that game so much.

I’m sure it will come as no surprise that I started getting to the age where I started trying really hard. Now that I knew how games work, I could practice a lot and be the best, too. (As a tangent I won’t get into now, I was also completely narcissistic until sometime during high school). Halo 3 was also the first game that I played online. (I was around ten or eleven at the time. No I didn’t have a mic.) These games I played on the 360 were the generally the first installments of games I really got into (Halo being the exception). I played a ton of Elder Scrolls: OblivionGuitar Hero 3 and its later games, Call of Duty (Modern Warfare 2 was definitely the best one), Assassin’s CreedBioshock (the first game I beat on Hard mode the first time through), Left 4 Dead, etc. This is the point where I’m not simply old enough to remember these games, but I am starting to understand and play them well.

wii-2310On the Wii, we played Super Smash Bros: Brawl the most, as I said, but I played Wii Sports a lot. Tennis most of all, which I did so much my skill was literally off the charts (in the game). I also played Mario Kart: Wii a bunch. I played it so much, in fact, that I got three stars on every grand prix (meaning first place on every single course), and then proceeded to beat half of the “expert” ghosts, which were designed to be difficult. I did a review in which I compared that game to the new one, Mario Kart 8. I liked the old one better. I also played Super Mario Galaxy and beat my first Zelda game, Twilight Princess. Mostly, though I played Brawl. I’m that guy that plays Marth a lot. Sorry.

As far as PC gaming goes, it didn’t really catch on for me yet. I played some old browser games like Neopets (you can still find my profile page at “kollin5”), Adventure Quest, and a few other websites with questionable trustworthiness. Later, I was introduced to World of Warcraft. I remember running around Loch Modan with a level twenty-ish night elf hunter auto-attacking creatures with a vendor bought sword. Don’t judge me I was like eight. But having a very limited number of computers (basically one), the introduction of WoW to us made the sibling war of who got to play and for how long got so bad that at one point we were only allowed on for an hour at a time and we had a schedule printed out that told us what time slot we had that day. Seriously. Those were dark times.

rgdrc(As a side note, my brother and I also played some other RPGs with a friend after we stopped playing WoW for a while. We went through at least three, probably playing each for about a month or so. Also Minecraft fits in here somewhere. Probably around 2011 or so. Guild Wars 2 was also a big one for a while.)

It continued like that for a while. For several years we played games until the next one came out. Halo: ODST and later Halo: Reach, all the Assassin’s Creed games, and when Elder Scrolls: Skyrim came out that was another huge time sink. In general, though, we stayed where we were at for a few years. That is, until League of Legends came along.

I’ve probably played about two thousand games of League. Each game being an average of about thirty minutes or so, that equals quite a bit of hours. The funny thing about that is that it probably doesn’t hold a candle to my current playtime of Warcraft, but we played it with varying frequency for several years. I even have about five different League t-shirts. During the last five years I’ve also put a lot of time into Diablo 3TerrariaDestiny, Heroes of the StormHearthstone and some other things that escape my mind.

These days, I don’t have a whole lot of free time. But if I did, I would be playing more Warcraft and Overwatch.